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Boat accident
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 21:42

01.10.09 Isabela / Galapagos

At 3 am we were woken by a crashing noise followed by the ship’s alarm as we had heard it during the drill. I jumped out of bed and switched on the light. The boat was already rocking to the left and it was hard to stand up whilst trying to grab something to put on. I couldn’t seem to find the clothes I had taken off before going to bed and had to get clothes out of the wardrobe. We grabbed the lifejackets (and nothing else) and left the cabin then realized that we had only picked up one so went  back again, still not thinking to grab anything of value. There was a constant sound of what sounded like breaking glass and I expected to see all the glasses and bottles from the bar area on the floor of the lounge area in front of our cabin door. It turned out this was the glass from the bridge breaking under the pressure of the boat bouncing against the rocks.
There was also a strong smell of diesel, making me wonder if the boat could blow up but this thought disappeared as we tried to get from the lounge area to the dining area to get to the back of the boat. One door was jammed due to the tension but luckily the other one opened. Within these few minutes the generator must have stopped working as the lights had gone off everywhere.
After entering the dining area I slipped on the water from the coffee machine which had fallen to the floor and bruised my arm. As soon as I got to the back of the boat I saw that the dingy (which is hoisted up on a generator-powered cable to deck level when not in use) on the port side was whipping around the side of the boat with waves crashing behind it and was not going to be able to be used for getting off. At first I thought we were at sea in the middle of a storm until I could make out the rocks and shoreline behind it. I grabbed my sandals (we all had a pair at the back of the boat for shore landings) luckily just in time as water started coming into the boat back left and the shoe rack and some shoes floated away.  I thought the boat was going to sink pretty quickly but the water level wasn’t rising quickly or it stopped for a while, I don’t know which. The diesel on the deck was making it very slippery and Arturro fell trying to get the water canister which we were going to take off board with us.
We could see Tanya and a few crew members looking over the starboard side and trying to inflate a life raft which seemed to be tangled in the ropes used to tie it to the railings. I saw someone go up to the first deck and followed them thinking it was a crew member and that we may have to jump from the first deck. It turned out it was one of the Russians just taking a look so I went back down and told Heiko to do the same. We all sat down at the back of the boat and waited for further instructions. Luckily everyone stayed calm until we were told to get in the other dingy including Deeta who at 73 could not swim. Also luckily this had been lowered before the generator died as otherwise we could not have used it and would have had only one inflatable raft for around 25 people.  The first inflatable raft had been blown onto shore by a wave.
Heiko and I were the last to get into the dingy which makes 16 of us including the guide and a crew member with one paddle. Tanya told us that the mayday had gone through and that there was a boat about an hour away. If that didn’t arrive we would wait a couple of hours until daybreak and try to find somewhere to get onto the island as it was too dangerous in the dark and better to stay near the boat as our coordinates had been given through with the mayday. The sea was calm with no waves or wind, just a light drizzle for a few minutes.

Crash occurred on area marked in red


Amidst the discussions of whether we were floating towards the rocks or away from the rocks and bailing out some water we could see sea lions swimming around the dingy. At least if we had had to get in the water the sharks wouldn’t have been dangerous!

The crew had managed to get a life raft working and got off the boat and soon we saw lights in the distance and a small boat appeared (this belonged to the National Park ship). As we all got onto this boat I remember seeing that one of the Russians had his flippers with him and wondered what kind of priorities he had for saving valuables – it turned out he took them in case he had to swim to shore.

It was a short ride to the National Park ship but the sea was a bit choppier further from shore which made it tricky getting out of the small boat and onto the steps on the side of the ship. As soon as I got on board relief set in and I started crying. We were all given water and blankets – some people had got off in just underwear or nightshirts and were not too comfortable amidst a strange crew of mostly men. Deeta still had her rollers in and Susan was still wearing her night tooth braces which gave us a little laugh in the middle of a horrible situation. Unfortunately Deeta also had a bad cut on her hand where someone had stepped on it on the boat – being a tough old girl she didn’t even complain.

Once we were all on board Tanya had the tough job of translating / communicating everything which was going on. It was clear at this point that we would not be able to get anything off the boat and that pirate boats may get there pretty quick and take anything they could get. Funnily the crew had 3 suitcases between them – who knows if this was just their tips from the last few weeks or also some of our belongings?

At first we were told we would be on land in around 6 hours (i.e. midday), then at 8 pm then 11 pm then 1 am. Instead of taking us straight back to Santa Cruz the ship was continuing around Isabela and Fernandina to drop off crew and scientists as they were already a day behind schedule from another incident. The thought of spending much longer on a boat was not appealing and sure enough Heiko and I got very seasick as the sea was quite choppy. We passed the time by talking, trying to eat and sleep and waiting for updates from Tanya. Finally at around 12.45 am we arrived at Santa Cruz where we had to put our lifejackets back on for the rider in a smaller boat to shore. We were greeted by a film crew and people handing out Cormorant II t-shirts and towels – what great souvenirs!
A bus drove us the 45 mins. to Puerto Ayora (the main town) where we were checked into Hotel Silberstein and were allowed to make phone calls home. Tanya said we should make a list of all our belongings with the value and she would meet us the next morning to go to the police station. I took a shower to get rid of the smell of diesel by which time it was more or less 24 hours after the boat crashed.  Certainly a day to remember but under the worst circumstances.

We would like to say a big thank you to Tanya and David Balfour for everything and to our new-found friends for the moral support.


Tanya - heroine in the chaos
 Yvette & Rian

What happened between then and the second Galapagos trip would take up too much homepage space and is not particularly exciting to read. Needless to say we went back and you can read all about that on the next report….

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 November 2009 19:37